Friday, June 6, 2008

Aspirational Church Growth

One of the great myths currently flying around is that in order to be successful a church’s congregation must be welcoming.

While this might be true for happy-clappy let’s-all-gurgle-at-god Charismatic places, there’s simply no need for such nonsense at a GAFCON church. Just look at St. Onuphrius’ – we’re not in any way welcoming, we’re aspirational.

By this I mean that newcomers are immediately made to feel almost as good as we are – and that with a little work and aspiration they may indeed one day reach our heights, but until then they’re clearly beneath out standards - but because we’re such fine Christians we’ll be nice to them regardless.

Cultivating this mindset serves two important purposes: firstly any newcomers not sufficiently insecure to aspire to be one of us are quickly weeded out, saving our time being on developing relationships which will prove of no value; and secondly, it quickly produces a culture in which everybody knows the right way to think, speak and act, because peer-pressure and the aspiration to be one of the people who matter is so strong that those who don’t understand our values just pretend they do anyway, and imitate those whom they aspire to be.

The result is nobody never needs to spell out whom is meant if I, for example, refer to "those sort of people" - because the entire congregational culture is one of knowing, and since anyone who doesn’t understand still aspires to be on the “inner” and accepted, they quickly learn to be quiet and pretend they actually do understand.

It can be a tricky balance to achieve at first, but very soon even a modestly intelligent Vicar can find create an environment where this is all second nature. The first step is to praise everyone richly, but never completely. Tell them they’ve done well, and almost as well as someone else. Greet visitors by exclaiming how well behaved their children are, or how interesting their jobs sounds, but then qualify it by mentioning they are nearly as well-behaved or interesting as someone who’s been in the congregation for years. If that person is within hearing range this works even better, invite them over and introduce them to the newcomer. Then be certain to privately rebuke the long-term member at some point in the next week over how their children behaved, or how much time they’ve been devoting to their job. Never let anyone grow too confident, but also never let them cease hoping to be better.

Before you know it you too can have a growing church built on the principle of everyone aspiring to be more than they currently are, but deeply grateful that they aren’t like someone else. When you do you’ll have understood one of the most important principles of GAFCON, at which point you’ll be almost ready to hear tomorrow’s basic lesson ministry.

I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.

1 comment :

MadPriest said...

Wonderful advice and I can verify that this lateral thinking works very well, in deed. Since placing a big sign above my church door stating

No welfare cases please

not only have I quadrupled my congregation but I have also done rather well out of the annual fees. I originally set them at a modest £500 but I didn't get much of a take up on that. So I doubled them and, I tell you, they were hammering on the door, the next day, with plastic in hand. And all the right sort of people.

I haven't told the bishop. He has enough to worry about with the poorer churches.